Final Project Evaluation

Final Project Evaluation
What is the concept for my book? In what ways is that concept creative and original?
I made a tree book because I was first inspired by the pumpkin I first blogged about that served as both art and a book, therefore, book art. I was also inspired by Jenny O’Grady’s presentation of non-traditional book forms. With that said, I just happen to like trees, and I often find that nature inspires a lot of the work that I do, so I thought I’d write poems (which I haven’t done in years) that centered around a person’s relationship with a tree throughout the year. I think this is creative because of the act not only of imagining this idea in its entirety, but finding a way to act on that idea and all of the different kinds of work and problem solving that was involved to finish this project. Apparently, making a book tree isn’t an original idea, but it was to me because before this class, I never would have thought to make such a thing, let alone imagine having the skills to execute this. And really, you don’t see too many book trees in book stores or anything, so I guess that it is original enough. Originality might also come from the way that I made the book and the materials that I used and how I used them. I also wanted buyers to be able to interact with my book other than reading it, so they can use it as a decorative piece as well. They can also arrange the leaves however they like no matter the time of year. They also have to do a little bit of hunting to find the poems. Part of the goal of the tree book was to force readers to interact with it on a more active level rather than a typical, passive one that you inherently do in the act of reading.
In what ways does my concept challenge me creatively and structurally?
It was certainly a challenge. I haven’t sculpted much of anything ever, but I really wanted to try sculpting, and so I did. My first idea was to build the trunk of the tree around toilet paper rolls that I taped together, but then it hit me that I could use a wine bottle as my armature. Originally, the branches were going to be out of wire clothes hangers, but then when I was in the craft store, I found wire “branches” that fit my vision for the limbs exactly, and so once I had those two materials, (plus the clay) I knew my idea had a chance at becoming a reality for me. Creatively speaking, I just really had to do a lot of thinking and a lot of experimenting, especially with my materials. I figured out that once I was using papier mache to cover the wine bottle, that there could be a better to do so, (and what I mean by that, is to give the tree a better texture than it would have if I used regular papier mache), and so I started Googling around and came across a Youtube video of a woman who reinvented papier mache, and that really elevated the look of my tree and fit better with my idea of how I wanted it to look. So mostly in this project, my creativity was used in terms of problem solving, and the way that I went about problem solving (ie: using textured spray paint to add more texture to the tree). This was challenging because I like to solve problems that I am more familiar with, if that makes any sense. I’m not particularly art and craftsy, so this kind of problem solving requires a lot from me since everything is so new to me.
What is the level of craftsmanship that I have brought to the book? What successes and failures did I have in constructing the book?
I put a lot into the creation of this book. I felt like I was playing the role of sculptor, designer, writer, and a mixed media artist. As a sculptor, I had to mold the clay and papier mache to the bottle, and then I made tree roots out of aluminum pie pans (which at the time seemed like a stroke of genius), and I had to affix the limbs to the tree and find a way to keep them attached. I felt like a designer in how I designed the patterns on the leaves/snowflakes, and making the choice to give it a retro feel by using an actual typewriter (I wanted this project to be as handmade as possible). I was a writer of course in that I wrote everything in the book, and was happy to push myself out of my comfort zone and write poems. And overall, I was a mixed media artist because of all the different materials I was using to create the whole tree, and just really needing to learn how certain materials “behaved.”
Successes: I ended up having a lot of successes, so I won’t go in to all of them, but my favorite was that the clay adhered to the wine bottle and the limbs, and that the new papier mache worked. These are my favorites because I feel that they were the biggest risks that I took in creating this project. I really had to rely on the materials, and since I wasn’t familiar with them, I had a lot of doubt as to how successfully they would work with the other materials that I had, but everything turned out ok.
Failures: I had plenty of these too, but at least they got resolved before I had to work on my final trees. I thought it was going to be enough to just have the clay wrapped around the bottle as the trunk, but it wasn’t, even though for time and money’s sake I wanted it to be. I also ran out of the blue kind of puffy paint I was using for the snowflakes and the craft store couldn’t replace it in time, so I had to use another shade of blue, but it doesn’t negatively affect the book tree except maybe in terms of uniformity, which, if I was selling the trees individually, wouldn’t necessarily matter anyway. I mean, I didn’t really have too many failures because I had so much time (and input) to fix what wasn’t working. Everything was just one big experiment to me, not necessarily a failure. I had given a lot of thought to the project as soon as we received the final project paper, so I think I had done about two weeks of thinking before I got started building, and that was really helpful to me because for the midterm assignment, I didn’t give myself that time—I waited until I had to work on the project to think about it.
In what ways have I fully explored and even stretched the book form I used?
I’m not sure that this question really applies to me because I invented a book form. The closest I came to using an existing book form was making a few accordion fold leaf books, and I stretched that by making them leaves and decorating them as such. I feel like I fully explored the book form I invented just by figuring out how to make it work and bring it as close to the vision I had for it in my mind.
How is the form of the book linked to the content of the book?
The content is comprised of three poems about a person’s interaction with a tree over the course of a year, but specifically the seasons of summer, autumn, and winter. The content is on different kinds of leaf designs and snowflakes, and are attached to the tree, so the content and form are closely connected, and really, my idea for the form led to my idea of writing poems about a tree.
What graphic and typographic choices did I make for this book and why? How do these elements impact the book and my concept?
Graphically speaking, (outside of the obvious tree and leaves/snowflake design) I made a tire swing, and “grass,” in addition to including a bronze bucket to hold the leaves or snowflakes that will not be used at the time according to the season/buyer’s choosing. I worried a bit about the typography because it isn’t as clean as it should be for traditional books, but mine isn’t traditional and because of the size of my leaves/tree, it couldn’t look as perfect as it normally should. I did my best to clean up widows and orphans and use proper punctuation, and I feel that that is the best I could do given the form I was working with. I of course love the typewriter look and the process of using a typewriter instead of a computer. I didn’t want to have to use a computer because I wanted this book to have a completely handmade/old fashioned feel (this was so that it would reflect more of my personality which is generally technology averse), but I had to give that up for both time’s sake and my sanity’s sake. These elements positively impact the book/concept because they make it as genuine, or true to life as possible, and that’s what I was aiming for—authenticity.
What is the name/title of my book, and why was that name/title selected?
The book is called, “My Year with the Tree.” It is so named because it accurately reflects the content and form of the book.
If I were to make this book over again, what things would I change (in process, concept, and construction), and why?
If I were to make this book over again, I think I would make the limbs thicker, and I would add (if there are technical names for these things, I don’t know them) thicker, almost trunk-like branches coming out of the tree and winnowing down into normal sized branches so that it would better resemble the idea of a tree that I had in mind. I would also vary the look of the snowflakes (not all snowflakes are actually identical looking), and maybe find a way to make a hollowed-out section in the tree-trunk where one could put a note or a little squirrel or something to give my tree more flair. I would also dedicate more attention to my poems because I know they are not perfect. To make any of these changes, more time would be required, which was something that I felt I didn’t have enough of during the entire project, even though we had a month to work on it.

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